Shostakovich: The Young Lady and the Hooligan; Ballet Suite No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Shostakovich
LABELS: Russian Disc
WORKS: The Young Lady and the Hooligan; Ballet Suite No. 2
PERFORMER: Minsk SO/Walter Mnatsakanov
CATALOGUE NO: RD CD 10 033 DDD
Shostakovich the Romantic, self-borrowing, ideologically dutiful tunesmith of popular theatre and cinema, purveyor of easy-on-the-ear music for Party and people to scenarios best forgotten, is the message of these stressless excursions. Maybe he didn’t quite have the cutting edge of Stravinsky, or the imaginative twists and colourful folk vibrancy of his friends Prokofiev and Khachaturian. But when it came to turning and orchestrating a dance form or romance into something irresistible, he was up there with the best.

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Rozhdestvensky’s abridgement of the three-act comedy-ballet The Limpid Stream (1934-5) usefully places in context numbers otherwise familiar from the postwar ballet suites. Based on a 1918 screenplay by Mayakovsky, The Young Lady and the Hooligan (a ‘choreographic novel’ in seven episodes) was compiled in 1962 by Shostakovich’s Armenian collaborator Levon Atovmian, drawing on music from The Bolt, The Limpid Stream, the Cello Sonata and other works. Gorenstein and the Russian SO offer a beautifully judged performance, musically and dramatically superior to the Minsk reading (compare ‘Visions’, a reorchestration of the Gadfly Romance, with clarinet solo). Rozhdestvensky is all we might expect – a master of the dance step and precision timing graced by not a little personality.